Poor AgnesPoor Agnes is a tight little thriller hot off the world premiere at the Fantasia International Film Festival.  A pounding drum of relentless serial killing, Agnes (Lora Burke) captures her latest victim Mike (Robert Notman) and chains him in the basement assuring him of his impending doom.  The doom doesn’t come, and both we and Mike are surprised as something about him answers an unspoken question in her life.  Does she care?  Is she truly ruthless or is she waiting for an audience?  Director Navin Ramaswaran will keep you guessing until the end.


Morality becomes even more muddled as Mike slides down the slope from prisoner, to unwilling accomplice, to willing slave.  Agnes weaves sexual gratification into the torture she inflicts (or forces him to inflict upon himself) on Mike, seeming to finally capture him fully.  When she drags Chris (Will Conlon) into her web, partly to satisfy her own murderous/sexual desires but also as a test for Mike he protests “I’m not like you”.  Methinks the boy doth protest too much.


The frenetic pace of the first act doesn’t give us time to dwell upon Mike’s descent.  Halfway through, I found myself wondering who I was supposed to be rooting for, as time and time again Mike recoils from opportunities to escape.  A bit of restraint to Agnes’ madness might have allowed us to sympathize or at least to understand how she could find some connection with sniveling Mike.  A poignant moment comes as Agnes and Mike explore the desolate junked cars populating her remote compound.  Remnants of her dead father’s abandoned projects help bring a touch of depth to the character.


Poor Agnes is exactly what I go to Fantasia for.  Home grown (shot in Thunder Bay!) horror, bold and relentless villains and murky moral waters.  Burke has elevated the crazy eyes look to an art form in and of itself and the relationship between Mike and Agnes will keep you guessing.  Not for the faint of heart, but a week into the festival what else could you ask for?



Whispers at the Q&A indicate that a distribution deal is in the works, so keep an eye open on the likely channels for this one.